Doc Ellis and the No-No

The content below is from Episode 151 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you go buy some cheap crap.
    • LOL, it sounds odd, but do it. Go to a thrift store, a dollar store, or if you are feeling boujie go splurge at a Five Below.
    • You’d be surprised what fun things you can find.
    • Dollar stores have some of the best quality playing cards
    • We got a back massager at Five Below and it is so satisfying to work out those knots on our backs and plus the cat LOVES it
    • Have you ever gone shopping at a Thrift Store in a rich neighborhood? We found a crystal flower vase for $3 LOL


  • Dock Phillip Ellis Jr. (March 11, 1945 – December 19, 2008) was an American professional baseball player.
    • Although his name would become more associated with the city of Pittsburgh later in his career, Doc was a born and raised a Californian, born in LA.
    • He went to Gardenia High School and right around the time of his Freshman year (14 years old) he started to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
    • He joined the school basketball team and did well, but refused to join the school baseball team after a player referred to him as a “spearchucker.”
    • However, he would eventually play for Gadena high baseball.
    • One day Doc got caught drinking and smoking pot in the high school bathroom senior year. The school principal made a deal: play baseball for the school or get expelled.
    • Doc appeared in 4 high school baseball games and was named an all-league player.
    • Not long after, Doc was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at age 17. The diagnosis was later changed to sickle cell trait.
  • He played in Major League Baseball as a right-handed pitcher from 1968 through 1979, most notably as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates teams that won five National League Eastern Division titles in six years between 1970 and 1975 and won the World Series in 1971. Ellis also played for the New York YankeesOakland AthleticsTexas Rangers and New York Mets. In his MLB career, Ellis accumulated a 138–119 (.537) record, a 3.46 earned run average, and 1,136 strikeouts.
    • He was flamboyant, passionate about the rights of his fellow African American players, and known for enjoying all sorts of recreational drugs.
  • Sports Illustrated tells tales of Doc’s sports career better than I could:
    • “As a player, Ellis was equal parts ferocious and flamboyant. Once, in 1974 against the Reds, he made it his mission to plunk every Cincinnati batter in an attempt to intimidate the nascent Big Red Machine; he got five hitters into it, nailing the first three and throwing over the heads of Tony Perez and Johnny Bench, before he was pulled. Another time, as a member of the Athletics in ’77, he he took pitching charts he’d been ordered to fill out and burned them in the locker room, setting off the sprinklers. And he had to be expressly told by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in ’73 not to wear hair curlers onto the field. Ellis was more than just a character, though: He was a key part of the 1971 World Series champion Pirates and the ’76 Yankees, who won the pennant, and started the ’71 All-Star Game for the National League opposite Oakland’s Vida Blue—the first time two pitchers of color had ever started the Midsummer Classic.”
    • In a video I watched, Doc defiantly says “get the hell out of here” to the people from his past telling him not to wear curlers in his hair. I’m not a fan of the look myself. I think curlers look tacky, however, there is something badass about a guy wearing a hair style typically associated with feminity and just not caring what anyone else thinks about it. The photos of Doc wearing his curlers looks so damn cool to me, especially the ones where he is in uniform.
  • There have been 318 no-hitter baseball games recognized by the Major League BaseballPlayers Association.
    • This story is about one of those games, played on June 12th of 1970. The thing that set’s Doc Ellis’s first and only no-hitter apart from the other 317 was that he was, as Doc puts it: “High as a Georgia Pine.”
  • On that day, June 12th 1970, the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team faced off against the Padres in the old San Diego Stadium.
    • Sport Illustrated wrote:
      • Ellis took the mound having dropped acid earlier that day and blanked the Friars, walking eight batters and hitting another (otherwise known as an A.J. Burnett Special). It was the first and only no-hitter of Ellis’ career, and almost certainly the lone MLB no-hitter pitched under the influence of LSD. (If you know otherwise, drop us a line.)
  • Two days before the game kicked off he went to go visit a lady friend in LA. While there he took some Acid and partied all night doing an assortment of drugs and drinking alcohol. He partied so hard that he passed out in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t wake up until the following day.
    • So he went to his lady friend’s house on Wednesday, partied so late into the night that he slept through all of Thursday. When he woke up Friday morning he thought it was still Thursday. So he popped another Acid around noon.
    • Two hours after taking Acid and thinking he didn’t have to pitch until the next day, his friend in LA informed him that it was in fact Friday and his ass better be on the mound in San Diego before the game started.
    • Doc got his ass moving the best he could. He hopped on the next flight to San Diego and was able to make it to the Stadium about 90 minutes before the game commenced… but the thing about Acid is that it doesn’t wear off like alcohol or any other drug for that matter.
  • LSD is no joke
    • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a popular psychedelic drug that alters the state of your mind in significant ways. This potent drug binds to specific brain cell receptors and alters how the brain responds to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates emotions, moods, and perceptions.1 By binding to these receptors LSD modifies neural pathways, producing visual hallucinations and altering the perception of things such sound and time.2-3
    • The mind-altering effects experienced during an “acid trip” could last for up to 12 hours…
  • I’m personally impressed that Doc Ellis was able to scrape himself off the couch, put on his uniform, and fly to LA … let alone pitch a whole game no-hitter.
    • Doc had recounted the day himself multiple times. He said the ball would look gigantic and as if it were speeding right towards him and scare him into flinching for one play, only to have it fall short of the mound. In the next play the ball would appear as small and fragile as a robin’s egg inside his mit.
    • He expressed the lack of vision to the point where he could only tell which side of the play the batter was on and could barely read the signals his catcher was giving him.
  • In 1984 Doc  recounted:
    • “I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate,” “I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.”
    • “I can only remember bits and pieces of the game,” Ellis recalled in 1984. “I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the [catcher’s] glove, but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t.
    • “Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.”
  • Now, it should be mentioned that Ellis is the one and only source for this story and he didn’t share it publicly until 14 years after the event. So naturally some have doubted that he was under the influence when he pitched his No-No.
    • Today you can only watch bits and pieces of the game. Despite the game being televised, the MLB has not released the video of the game in its entirety.
    • Not to mention that although it was a No-Hitter, it wasn’t a pretty performance.
  • The Guardian writes:
    • In some ways, Ellis’s performance for the Pirates against San Diego Padres on Friday 12 June 1970 was not exactly a pitching masterclass. Ellis recorded more walks (eight) than strikeouts (six), hit another batsman, allowed three stolen bases, and was bailed out by highlight-reel plays in the field by second baseman Bill Mazeroski and centerfielder Matty Alou. 
  • It was his teammate, Danny Cash, the 2nd baseman, who kept telling Doc “you got a No-No going,” referring to the No-Hitter.
    • Doc said he wanted him to shut the hell up. It was bad luck to put attention on a no-hitter, especially just after the first inning.
      • I can relate to that. I tell my buddies when we are playing video games or any type of game that if I am doing well, DON’T tell me in the moment. Feel free to praise my performance afterwards, but if you bring the fact that I’m doing really well to my attention mid-game, I’m going to choke.
      • Every time, without fail, if a buddy says “damn dude, you are killing it!” I immediately get in my own head and play terribly.

During his 12 years in the major leagues, Dock lived the expression “Black is Beautiful!” He wore curlers on the field. He stepped out of his Cadillac wearing the widest bell bottoms and the broadest collars. When he put on his uniform, he was one of the most intimidating pitchers of the 1970s.

Dock was often at the forefront of controversy and has been called the “Muhammad Ali of Baseball.” He was an outspoken leader of a new wave of civil rights in sports, when black athletes were no longer content to accept second-class treatment or keep their mouths shut about indignities. For this, the press labeled him a militant.

When he wasn’t playing ball, Doc was making waves in the name of equal rights… and this was back in the 70s when equality was a lot more sparse than they are today.

  • When he wasn’t playing ball, Doc was making waves in the name of equal rights… and this was back in the 70s when equality was a lot more sparse than they are today.
    • I have mad respect for the man for this.
    • It is well known now that Baseball (among MANY other facets of life) were institutionally racist, and Doc wasn’t having none of that shit.
  • On another note of standing up for what he believed in, Doc didn’t hide the fact that he did drugs. At a time when Nixon (Ol’ Tricky Dick) with his SUPER anti-drug policies some of which are still being felt today and are widely regarded as unreasonable, Doc was dropping Acid and going to games LOL.
    • Regardless of how you feel about substance abuse, you must recognize the gumption of the man.
      • It should be noted that sometime after he left baseball, Doc got sober. Not only did he change his life around, but he launched a career around helping others kick their addictions as well. He was a drug addiction counselor specializing in helping prison inmates get sober.
    • After Dock retired from baseball, he was as outspoken about his addictions to alcohol and amphetamines (aka “greenies”) as he had been about racial prejudice during his career. He spent his last decades using that blunt honesty as a counselor helping other addicts.
    • It was a drive to do good that was a constant in his life after retirement, when he got sober and worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to rehabilitate black prisoners, helped start the Black Athletes Foundation for Sickle Cell Research and served as the coordinator of an anti-drug program in Los Angeles. As he explained to enrollees, he self-medicated to cope with the fear of both losing and winning. He came to bemoan the feat he’s most associated with simply because it “robbed him of his greatest professional memory”.
      • I mean… how honorable, yet still rebellious is that?
      • Kinda reminds me of Johnny Cash doing a concert in Folsom Prison

Since then, the Internet has fueled the legend of Dock Ellis. This will be the first time his legend – and the story of the man behind it – will be told in a feature film.

It was in 2008 that Doc died of cirrhosis of the liver. His legendary baseball career, and commendable lifestyle will not be forgotten.